It was really nice that the people from Puget Sound (aka Seattle to the locals) braved whiteout conditions and avalanches to attend the Spring Barrel event in the Yakima Valley. Numbers were probably up from the old days, but what with so many wineries, attendance at individual wineries was down. We here at Bonair had about 1500 visitors and they spent more money than in either of the previous two years, but it was nothing like the good old days when there were only 30 wineries in the valley and we divided all that money by 30, not 100. (Note to next new winery; divide by 101)
The crowd was younger and there were many more women than men. That is good in two ways. Women make most wine-buying decisions and it is great to see the younger crowd enjoying wines. We really sold the hell out of our sweet Riesling. Our older customers just find it hard to get out of the retirement home when the weather isn't perfect. We really miss them, though. In their place, we had a lot of Latinos, a really important customer base.
Other than a winery with gun toting guards and another with three Sheriff's cars parked out front, I didn't hear anything bad. We didn't have any people we had to refuse to serve due to inebriation and Yes, Mr. Liquor Board Man, we carded all who entered the gates and found not one underage person trying to attend the event. Just in case, though, you have a good solution to a nonexistent problem.
It seems some wineries look upon this event as an opportunity to turn off customers by poor organization and surly regimentation. I think this is the biggest opportunity to gain new customers that we have. This is where they get royal treatment and become returning customers. We even put a sign out on the main road advertising 'FREE Wine Tasting – No Pass? No Problem' just to get people who were tired of shelling out $5 at every winery after buying a $50 pass. I want people to try our wine. The wine will sell itself. I guess if your wine isn't very good and/or overpriced and people aren't buying, charging makes sense. I, personally, would rather pay to taste bad/expensive wine and walk out than feel obligated to buy a bottle.
I still think wineries serve too much alcohol. One winery had seven samples of bottled wine and a port from the barrel. If they were serving one-ounce pours, a person could become looped at just one winery. At Bonair, we used ½ ounce PosiPours and gave people 4 tickets to choose from 9 wines (Two dry whites, three sweeter wines and four dry reds.) The barrel sample didn't require a ticket, so the most a person could get was 2.5 ounces. By limiting the choice to four out of nine, people paid attention to what they were consuming. Only one dumbass said, "Start me at the top." When he got to the sweet Riesling, he was done. No tickets left for red wine. One person commented, "That's not very much wine (½ ounce) for a ticket." And our pourer responded, "How much did you pay for the ticket? (free)." Enough said. The PosiPours were a big help when everyone has a different size glass (like the woman with the giant margarita glass). They are much faster because you don't have to watch and guess when to stop. It is all automatic.
Futures from our barrel, the 2009 Morrison Vineyard, Estate Bottled, Rattlesnake Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, sold well.
So, if you attended or worked Spring Barrel in the Yakima Valley, your perceptions would be appreciated.